Seventeen-year-old, Monique LaForce is probably Red Deer’s best kept secret in the world of volleyball. The graduating Lindsay Thurber student, who has been playing middle for Thurber for the past three years, is looking forward to Aug. 11th, the day she starts her post-secondary career.
“I play everything except libero (a back row position that mostly defends), I’m going to university to play outside.”
In February, through her club team, LaForce attended the Las Vegas classic, where senior high school players were able to get into the senior showcase. Approximately 365 universities and college coaches ask athletes to demonstrate different drills. Each player is then ranked on their performance. And lets just say LaForce did pretty good. She ranked fifth at her position and number one all around player. But then again, there was only 1,500 athletes to choose from.
Impressive as that was, it wasn’t as impressive as what awaited the outside power hitter when she returned to her home in Red Deer. “When we got back from Vegas there were 197 different schools that were looking at me,” she said. “So then there was all these emails about it and I was just ‘Oh my goodness!’ because when you have 197 emails you think this is not real.”
And it was real. So real in fact that ESPN called to talk to the budding star. Her mother Melissa was also impressed. “We drove three times a week to Calgary for two to three hour practices,” said Melissa. “Her club team was in division one for their age group last year.” She’s very proud of her daughter and has played a role in her success, in fact, for a few years mom was her coach.
Melissa says that although she’s coached Monique, coaches like the Raiders Barb Young and Kirsten Dezutter have really helped her grow. And it was her High Performance Volleyball Club coach in Calgary, Myla Hodgins that has had the most impact. “She’s worked hard with Monique. My husband and I say she’s been a really big driving force for her.”
Hodgins came to scout Monique after seeing her at a few tournaments while she was a Raider. “I saw her as a big hitter, she hits the ball hard and she’s a strong player.”
With that said there were some things that needed tweaking. “She was a goofy footer when she came to me.”
The term ‘goofy footer’ refers to approaching the ball right –left –right with your feet, while also hitting the ball with your right hand. For the most part the way you approach a jump is innate. You don’t change it.
“It’s almost unheard of to change a goofy footer. You have to work really hard at that,” said Hodgins. “You can attack more aggressively and more effectively to all areas of the court by having proper footwork. So she worked really hard at that and most kids would not put in the time and effort to change that kind of thing.”
But Monique is not like most kids. Out of 197 different schools to choose from, she didn’t choose Utech, Washington state or even Hawaii (who did make her an offer). Most kids would jump at Hawaii. But she chose Graceland University in Iowa. Why?
“When I went to Iowa it was the people and the environment and stuff. It was super friendly but really homey like it would be here.”
And like here, she’ll have have Stew McDole, the 12-time Heart of America Athletic Conference coach of the year, to take her to the next level.